Mandatory Volunteering is Not Volunteering

3 years ago

Definition Volunteer


My older boys close to completing high school and are preparing for college.  That is IF they complete the mandatory volunteer hours required for high school graduation.

In my estimation, the words mandatory and required do not pair with volunteer.  

Definition Mandatory

I have strong feelings about this graduation requirement.  Though I believe it is an excellent idea to encourage community service, I take issue with forced community service if not related to criminal punishment.  

One of my boys is required to perform 40 hours of community service for a non-profit during his high school "career".  His volunteer activities are his choice and on his time line.  Great, some flexibility for the forced volunteering.

My oldest, a senior, is required to complete as senior project that is community-service based, non-profit, and 30+ hours.  He must have a mentor, track hours, take notes, create a PowerPoint slideshow, and present his project to a panel.

Really???  Senior year?  Love the public speaking experience but let’s quickly look at his plate the next few weeks.  This kid is off to college in less than a year, taking SATs, ACTs, writing essays, doing coursework, filing out college applications, Junior College classes to bump credits and GPA, and working part time.  Let's tack on a mandatory community service project.

My theory is that forced community service for teens is cheap labor.  I know, this is a cynical viewpoint but I can't get passed the "mandatory" and "required" element to the volunteering.  

I do not see the value in forcing an individual to volunteer just to meet graduation requirements.  Certainly, a percentage of students will become excited and passionate about volunteering.  These students may go on to volunteer and contribute to their future communities in a way other people do not.

But the average student will seek out volunteering opportunities simply to meet a requirement to graduate.  How is that helping?  What is that really teaching the student?  Is it teaching the student volunteering is not really voluntary?

So, is my perception wrong?  

Is there real value in mandatory volunteering or is it a tactic to access otherwise unavailable assistance?  

Is there a better way to encourage community service instead of holding a high school diploma hostage?  

Cheers!  Tammi

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